Oscar Trigo: Offensive concepts of the Spanish wheelchair basketball national team

Although we can discuss the fact that wheelchair basketball is BAS-KET-BALL, the internal logic of our sport shows us that there are different regulatory elements between two kinds of basketballs. The coach’s understanding and mastery of these elements will determine the range of tactical options for the team. This article will be dealing with three topics in regulations based on 3 regulatory items:

  1. Wheelchair basketball players must have a lower body injury or impairment that does not allow them to pivot on their standing axis.
  2. Every player has a functional classification, which is determined by the player’s range of motion in the chair (in which planes he/she can develop the different motor skills) Classification is based on the players’ functional capacity to complete the skills needed to play. This classification ranges from 4.5 points for players with a greater range of movement (distal amputations, prosthesis, etc…) to 1 point for players with a more limited range of movement (paraplegia, quadruple amputation). The classification will increase by a half point depending on the range of movement (1/1.5/2/2.5/3/3/3.5/4 /4.5).
  3. The total number of points allowed on court at any time is 14 points in national team competition and 14.5 points in club competition.

Having explained this concept, we practice, play and make plans according to the functional capacity of the players in the line up. At the Tokyo games our main line ups were:

– 4/3/3/3/2,5/1,5: line up with two shooters: class 4 (Asier Garcia) and class 2,5 (Jordi Ruiz or David Mouriz), with two centers class 3 (Alejandro Zarzuela, Pablo Zarzuela, Amadou Tijan, Manuel Lorenzo) with functional capacities close to those of class 4 and a low point player class 1,5 (Dani Stix or Oscar Onrubia) with  aggressivity both defensively and offensively.

– 4/4/3/1,5/1,5: line up with two playmakers class 4 (Asier García and Ignacio Ortega), a center class 3 (Alejandro Zarzuela or Amadou Tijan) and the two low pointer class 1,5 (Dani Stix and Oscar Onrubia) very aggressive on defence to have defensive systems against very important opposition players.

– 2.5/2.5/3/3/3/3: line up specialising in pressing defences and with three shooters on the court to open up tight defences.

– 4/3/3/3/3/3/1: line up with four very tall players (Asier García, Amadou Tijan, Alejandro Zarzuela, Manu Lorenzo, Fran Lara) to close the paint and to control the rebounds and dominate inside both offensively and defensively.

Offensively we could plan/play specific offensive systems for each line up (similar to the specific systems used by American football teams).

Our approach in national team differs from this systematisation, as the training methodology, with players in each of the line ups and with different functional capacities would lead us to focus all the tactical effort on the analytical work of the rotation with the mental wear that this implies for the player.

Our solution is to work on our offensive systems based on 2v2 or 3v3 game concepts, dissecting the tactical moment and offering the player possible tactical solutions. Thus, in this competition we work on different concepts, which together, generate game systems, open to different ends, giving prominence to the player’s decision making process.

I will then analyse the four most used concepts in this competition, from the analytical analysis of 2v2 or 3v3 to the 5v5 version.

The first two concepts are based on determining where the two shooters in the line up will be. Depending on their involvement, we will generate the offensive advantages to attack the spaces and generate open shots or a mismatch situation inside the paint.

The shooter (2.5) attacks baseline, with the idea of fixing the space between the two defenders on the side. The player, who will then position himself behind the screen (3) (player with an intermediate/high functional capacity) can decide to attack his defender (provided he has a functional or size match), or play the 2v2 with the back player (Image 1). There are two possible decisions for this action:

Image 1

2 a) Player (3), cuts and gains advantage over his defender by attacking the zone or getting a mismatch. If (3) forces the defender, baseline (4), to help, this will leave player (5) on the baseline open for a shot (Image 2).

Image 2

2 b) Player (3) plays the 2v2 with the shooter (5), to fix the defence and free the reception and the shot (Image 3).

Image 3

If the player (2.5) is an accurate shooter defence will be forced to jump on him. At this very moment player (3) will play the pick & roll with him (Image 4).

Image 4

If he gains advantage he will force the central defender to help and generate a defensive “triple switch”. With that situation, two options can be generated depending on which defensive player jumps on the shot:

If the player defending the top of the screen jumps, the player with the ball will attack the baseline (Image 5) and look for the pass on the pick & roll or to the open player (4) at the free throw line taking advantage of the late defensive help in “triple switch” (Image 6).

Image 5

Image 6

If the player defending behind jumps, the player with the ball will attack the elbow to fix the defender in the middle and pass to the open player at the top of the key (4) or if the defensive switch is not adjusted, pass to the picker (3) (Image 7).

Image 7

Concept 2

The shooter (5) plays the horizontal 2v2 with the player (4) with the ball to fix the defence and play a pick & roll (diagram 08).

Image 8

The player (4) being very offensive towards the baseline (may be open if there is no vertical defensive switch on the defensive pick) to fix the player’s defence at 45 degrees and use/play a second vertical pick & roll with the picker (3). If the picker takes advantage, an inside pass is possible (diagram 09) or, if the defender’s help, top of the key, comes, “triple switch”, the shooter (2.5) will be open in the centre (diagram 10).

Image 9

Image 10

2v2 on the weak side without the ball. When the strong side generates advantages and forces the defence to provide help, the weak side has to be active and attack the possible advantages that are generated without the ball; I will develop two concepts that help us to attack these advantages.

The following two concepts are based on our low point players (1/ 1.5) and show the importance of this class (1/ 1.5) in generating offensive advantages.

Concept 3

Our low point player (1.5) act as a space generator by making a direct diagonal pick to create a 2v1 situation a move known as “doing the X”. To develop this concept, I will give two examples depending on the position of our low point player.

a). Our low pointer (1.5) is as the top of the key, the strong side generates an advantage with one of the concepts explained above and forces the defence to jump above and to perform the “triple switch”. When the defender in the middle makes the help our low point player takes the opportunity to chase him and block the entry of the help (Diagram 11).

Image 11

b). Our low point player (1.5) is as the top of the key, the strong side generates an advantage with one of the concepts explained above and forces the defender to jump under to perform the “triple switch”. When the defender in the middle makes the help, our low point player takes the opportunity to follow and block him to open the path of the player attacking the elbow (Diagram 12).

Image 12

c). Our low point player (1.5) is on the weak side when the attack generates advantages with one of the concepts worked on previously (concept 1, concept 2) and forces the opponent to make a 4 switch rotation, allowing us to obtain for a few seconds a 2v1 advantage against the back defender of the weak side. Our low point player (1.5) picks diagonally the defender of the player (3) on the opposite side, and thus obtain an advantage on the inside (Images 13 to 15).

Image 13

Image 14

Image 15

Concept 4

At the same moment we play on the strong side, we attack the weak side with an open shooter to make the pass to him as quickly as possible and to get an open shot or a pass inside if the defender jumps. In this case, we will try to make sure that the player who screens is a high point player and contests the defender’s move to jump to make space baseline (Image 16).

Image 16

Once the offensive moves generated in 2v2 or 3v3 allowing to gain advantages have been understood and performed, it is time to implement them into the overall team play and generate open systems where, as mentioned before, the player’s decision making on controlled tactical situations becomes important.

To do this, I use the number of the concept that has been named in the preparation process and, in this case, I play with the numbering of each concept by combining them.

This combination of numbers makes sense by the order of the number, so the first number will be the one applied on the left side of the attack, and the second number on the right side. In this way, we can generate a wide variety of systems on the concept mastered by the players. Here are several examples:


System 11

The two shooters go deep to the baseline and come out after using the screen of the pickers. Once the ball is given, and if the strong side generates advantages, we can apply concepts 3 and 4 on the weak side (Image 17).

Image 17

System 23

The left side executes concept 2, while the right side gets ready for concept 3 (diagrams 18 and 19).

Image 18

Image 19

System 32

This will be similar to the previous system but starting on the opposite side (diagrams 20 and 21).

Image 20

Image 21

As you can imagine, the tactical skills we have displayed in this competition have been based on this philosophy, by differentiating what we want to practice (tactical concepts) and how we are going to use/implement it (game plan), looking for offensive game options depending on the characteristics of the team we are playing against.

I leave it to your imagination to continue drawing and “creating” systems around the four concepts I have shown above, asking me during the whole practice process, if I am using a set of concepts rather than a thousand systems that lock the player in.

I would like to thank Javier López, assistant coach of the Spanish men’s national team, for his collaboration in the making/writing of this article.



Text: Oscar Trigo | Images: Franck Belen | Header photo: Jaume Vilella

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